Did Rupi Kaur plagiarize parts of ‘Milk & Honey’ from this Tumblr poet?
People on Twitter seem to think so
by Una Dabiero
If you’ve been to a bookstore in the last year, you’ve probaly seen Rupi Kaur’s poetry book Milk & Honey lining the shelves. The Punjabi poet is popular for her short poems which discuss womanhood, love, trauma, and healing. Her book has sold over half a million copies and reached the New York Times Bestseller’s List #1 spot. However, some claim Rupi didn’t gain this success by herself.
Many people on Twitter have been calling her out for plagiarizing another poet, Nayyirah Waheed.
ok so rupi kaur plagiarized from nayyirah waheed stop supporting her lmao
— richelle (@taekleos) July 19, 2017
Nayyirah published a poetry book in 2013 called Salt., but had been writing poems on her Tumblr and Instagram pages for years prior. Meanwhile, Milk & Honey wasn’t published until a year after Salt. hit Amazon. Rupi’s poems are eerily similar to Nayyirah’s in both form, style, and language. Like, really similar.
Both poets are known for short poems with jagged punctuation and line breaks. They also tend to end their poems with a dash and a title or their name.
While it would be difficult to claim this makes Rupi’s work uninspired, a closer look at their use of imagery makes the distinction between their work even harder to draw.
First, the two poets repeatedly use “honey” as a metaphor for kindness, which is concerning considering Rupi’s book includes “honey” in the title.
Also, they both draw connections between womanhood and the sea.
But an even more convincing argument that Rupi plagiarized Nayyirah is the fact that Nayyirah reached out to her about how similar their work was and Rupi refused to acknowledge this concern. In a post on her Tumblr, Nayyirah wrote (all sic):
“loves. it is with a truly heavy heart. i feel it is now time that i must come on public record with a statement regarding the author rupi kaur. and the growing unrest in our community regarding issues of plagiarism. paraphrasing. and hyper similarity.
in dec 2014 i did. professionally. and privately. address this author via email. concerning issues of extreme hyper similarity regarding their work. i addressed this. among other concerns with the author. in the hopes that upon awareness on their part. efforts would be made to cease and desist.
in this correspondence. i expressed my upset. my growing discomfort. my disappointment and disbelief that as i had extended an professional acquaintanceship to them. a welcoming. a general trust. artist to artist. woc writer to fellow woc writer. that. that trust felt it had been violated. and that boundaries were being crossed. it was also very hurtful and confusing. because this author has expressed on social media. and in professional interviews. that i am one of their main WOC writing inspirations. and i truly thought that they valued and respected my work. myself. and the work i do. and i feel that i have been utterly blindsided…”‘
It seems pretty shitty an author would list someone as their inspiration, write work very similar to theirs, then deny any connection the two have to each other.
Heighten your Rupi Kaur criticism by acknowledging that Nayyirah Waheed called her out on plagiarism but RK went mum on that ☕
— afinoor ✊? (@roonifa) July 24, 2017
People are reminding each other this reflects the anti-blackness that still exists in most modern institutions.
Remember the time Nayyirah Waheed asked if Rupi Kaur being praised for poetry that was v v similar to hers was rooted in antiblackness ???
— Kamna मुद्दगौनी (@kamnamm) July 24, 2017
While its important to celebrate Rupi Kaur as a Woman of Color who achieved great creative success, it is also important to remember feminism requires us to consider intersections of privilege.
We’ll be waiting.
We’ve reached out to both Rupi and Nayyirah for comment.